Birth of a Novel - Chapter 5... is stuck

This is the fifth entry in my Birth of a Novel series of posts, where I talk about the development of my new YA urban fantasy.

I should have known I was in for trouble when I ran one scene over into a new chapter. I'm stuck.

Alright, at the end of chapter four, Zydeco ran back into a mucho mucho pissed off Hunter on his way out of school. Chapter five begins, as you might imagine, where that left off. And that is...?

That is with Elexuslash - a hottie we met in chapter one - sort of coming to Zydeco's rescue. By the way, what a cool name, eh? I played spin the name, and out spun lovely Lex. So anyhow, she shows up and Zydeco is off the hook, hopefully leading you, faithful reader, to wonder why.

But our ingenue Tameina is also there, looking out for Zydeco, making sure he's okay. And here we have a possible love triangle, a.k.a. the great big misunderstanding to come. In the midst of all this, Zydeco has to explain where he met Elexuslash, for she too is a mythological creature, and they met where such creatures meet in the big city. In other words, he's got to lie.

Here's a telling excerpt. The "she" below is Tameina.

She crossed her arms. “What happened, Zydeco?”

“Nothing,” I said. “Nothing happened.”

“Then why…?” Her eyes searched mine, and she ceased what promised to be a grand inquisition.

I blinked. What had she seen?

“Never mind,” she said.

I cringed as she reached for my shoulder. Note to self: avoid Hunter unless surrounded by other mythological creatures, where beating the snot out of him won’t raise an eyebrow.

“Just relax,” she said, rubbing the spot. “It looked like he was hurting you. Should you tell somebody?”

“No point.” My eyes threatened to roll into the back of my head as the pain diminished. I was like a dog getting his magic spot scratched. “Tameina. Man. Where did you learn to do that?”

She lowered her head slightly, although I caught tiniest of smiles flash on her face.

And then Elexuslash sauntered up to me. “Who’s your friend, Zydeco?”

And that's where I've become completely and utterly stuck. I know exactly what I want to have happen, say, in chapter nine, and at a high level, through to the end. I just haven't figured out how to get to chapter nine yet. *sigh*

I've been winging this book, you see, relying on the characters to tell me where to go, but I'm afraid they're starting to distract me from the major plot elements I've got in mind. So I'm thinking it's time to come up some kind of outline. I'm going on a plane in a couple of days and heading on vacation - seems like a fine time to draft an outline, no?

This attempt at "winging the book" is terrifying to me, you see. I generally start with an outline of at least the first several chapters before I begin writing. It's my map, my guide. It keeps me from getting lost. I had this great short story I once began. So excited, I was. Brilliant ideas in my head. I let whimsy guide me.

That story is still half finished somewhere on my hard drive.

So I must must must get an outline going NOW! I read a great tip somewhere that if you are writing character driven, let these little people in your head drive the first few/several chapters, and THEN, and only then, put together an outline. Maybe this will work out? I've gotten to know my little people, so maybe I can develop with a tour guide for them that'll have them do extraordinary things!

Oh, and this'll be my last blog entry for a couple of weeks as I'm heading to the house of mouse with the family.

To see what I think about chapter four, you can go back to the previous entry if you like.

You can jump ahead to see how it all works out after some time off.


Countdown to the mouse

I'm taking the family down to the promised land this Saturday. Yes, Walt Disney World. Work is hectic and stressful enough to warrant time away with a bunch of the fictional characters of my youth. And much as I love South Park, Mickey does NOT use profanity. At least not in front of the guests.

It's going to be hot as Hades. But it's the end of August in Florida, so what would one expect? The day after we get back, my son starts High School. *shudders at age* But, the beauty of going at the end of August is that much of the country has gone back to school already, so the lines won't be too long. This is a good thing, because in the sweltering heat, long lines = bad temper. It's a race to get into the next air conditioned ride or show!

We're flying this time, having driven the 2000 miles down the last couple of times, so it'll be quite the fast trip. On the other hand, maybe the airport irritation will remind me why we drive. I swear that Disney World is my kids' birth right. My son and daughter have visited nearly once for every year of their lives. I think one year, we went to California for a wedding and another year we went to Universal Studios, although we did hit Disney one night that trip. Basically, we're lazy as hell when it comes to vacation planning. We go where we know, and we know the mouse house.

I'd never been to Disney until I graduated high school, after which my folks took me down... on Eastern Airlines! This was also my first time on an airplane. Walter Cronkite was the voice in Spaceship Earth over at Epcot Center. It later became Robin Williams (I think), other names, and has since been completely rejiggered to modern-ness.

So what does this all mean to writing? A recent extremely positive rejection under my belt, I soldier on trying to get The Children of Midian published. The sequel - Return to Midian - is also done. The third book in that series - Abeo - is part way done, but I set it aside to focus on the next book and subject of my Birth of a Novel blog series. However, I'm stuck in the middle of chapter five, so unless I figure out where to take the chapter next, the blog series may not get updated before I head south. Or maybe I will, and explain why I'm stuck! Yeah, that's the ticket. I'd buy that for a dollar.

Okay - time to watch Warehouse 13 on the DVR!


Birth of a Novel - Chapter 4

This is the fourth entry in my Birth of a Novel series of posts, where I talk about the development of my new YA urban fantasy.

So there I was writing chapter four, and then I realized that I had sort of progressed onto the next chapter, so I had to stop, insert a "Chapter Five" somewhere in there and then give it a rest. That was weird. Normally, I know when to stop, but I realized I'd left a pretty good little cliffhanger in there, so decided to end the chapter there.

So in this chapter, we get a little taste of Zydeco in school along with Blaine, who continues to show his funny sidekick personality - actually, he's a bit gross too. But we also meet Tameina - Zydeco's best human friend. She's this little thing - think waif. And she really kinda likes Zydeco a lot, but lacks a bit of confidence, so when the resident hotties try to make their move on our protagonist, she kind of runs away. But what makes her so excellent is that as much as she really digs him, she in fact likes him so much that his happiness is more important to her than her own. She is that selfless. Man, I'm getting choked up thinking about how self-sacrificing she is, and I've barely written a chapter about her!

Add to all this that Magenta has made Zydeco realize that Tameina is a really *hint-hint* nice girl. Poor Zydeco - he's a griffin - they mate for life, and somewhere in his backstory, he'd kind of had a girl griffin, so... What's a griffin to do?

So, here's the opening.

The cafeteria of P.S. 169 offered the finest sloppy joe’s three dollars could buy. There was nothing in the world like chunky vomit on a stale bun at 10:15AM, which is why I usually skipped lunch.

Tameina leaned across the table and prodded Blaine’s sandwich with her index finger. It oozed at her touch, shifting back and forth like so much jello. She slid back, leaning sideways in her seat. “Oh, that is just gross.”

Blaine lifted the sandwich off the tray and gave it a cursory examination as the meat substance ran down his dark wrists. He shrugged and then stuffed half of it in his mouth.

Tameina buried her face in my sleeve. “Tell me when he’s done.”

And then just one more thing to throw at you. The "she" below is Tameina.

I blinked. “Wait. Did you say pinstripe suits?”

She slid a few strands of black hair over her ear. “Well, yeah. Mean something to ya, smart guy?” She grinned and looked up at me. Something about that big smile on her heart-shaped face blinded me a little. I privately cursed Magenta.

Anyhooo - the chapter is, I hope, a nice little mix of character development and plot development, especially later. Oh, by plot development, I mean tension. I'm big on tension. This is something I got from reading Donald Maass',Writing the Breakout Novel, and I firmly believe in tension.

As far as characters go, I had some big ideas about Zydeco and Tameina, but I've decided to take their relationship just a tad slower. I don't want it to advance too quickly. On the other hand, I probably shouldn't wait too long, given that the major plot arc will take over soon enough.

I really also hope I didn't rush some of the scenes and I hope Tameina's reactions to another girl flirting with Zydeco is believable. Man, I really hope that's the case.

That's all for now. Stay tuned!

To see what I think about chapter three, you can go back to the previous entry if you like.

You can shimmy over here to read about chapter five.


Birth of a Novel - Chapter 3

This is the third entry in my Birth of a Novel series of posts, where I talk about the development of my new YA urban fantasy.

Chapter three took a little while longer to finish. This is definitely a character development chapter. We see Zydeco in his immediate neighborhood, meeting a few of the characters - the newstand owner, one of the subway token booth operators. The city begins to breathe a little - I hope.

But above all, we meet Magenta Cashcan, the woman who took Zydeco in when he, like her and the rest of the city's mythological creatures were banished from their world. She functions as his mother, and he as her son. She's a chain smoking, red meat eating former dragon, who swears and walks their tenement apartment in a housecoat, the color of which befits her name. She truly misses being a dragon, and I try to actually make you feel her longing.

I'm also trying to build a strong relationship between these two, because it'll be hugely important later on. I think they sometimes act like a squabbling brother and sister, and sometimes like mother and son. I truly believe they adore each other, which amazes me. It's an entirely different experience writing character driven, and my fictional children surprise me on every page. (So do my real ones.) Here's a sample exchange between them.

“I see you caught Mr. Patel on the way up.”

The door opened right into the kitchen, and flipping the door shut behind me, I made for the refrigerator. The stale smell of tobacco filled my nose. “Yes, ma’am.” I leaned into the coolness of the open fridge, eyeing the leftover steak, roast beef and burgers, before pulling out a coke. No white meat, fish or vegetables in this house.

She’d gone down the hall to the back bedroom, her theoretically well ventilated smoking place, but her voice carried nonetheless. So did the smoke. “Unless you want a slap, don’t you go calling me ma’am.”

I chugged half the bottle and belched the words, “Yes, ma’am.”

She strolled back through the kitchen, a sly grin around a lit cigarette, and whacked me on the backside with the back of her hand. “You’re a snotty little mouth breather, you know that?”

Toward the end of the chapter, there's this really sweet moment between the two, where Magenta just sort of goes into a dreamy state, gazing out the window at the sky, missing her life before. I really hope I got it right.

That's what I'm most concerned with in this chapter and really everything else in this book I think. Getting these relationships just right. They're definitely not one-dimensional. I want you the reader to love these two characters for the individuals they are.

This is definitely not a plot-mover, but more of a setting-you-up kind of deal. I hope it works.

To see what I think about chapter two, you can go back to the previous entry if you like.

You can slide on over here to read about chapter four.


Birth of a Novel - Chapter 2

This is the third entry in my Birth of a Novel series of posts, where I talk about the development of my new YA urban fantasy.

Chapter two - in the can. That's fancy-talk for, it's done. At 1100 words, chapter two is about 600 words shorter than chapter one, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. You see, chapter one ends with a cliffhanger that promises action. Chapter two delivers the action and the resolution to that action. Mind you, I leave some questions, otherwise why would you bother to keep reading?

The next scene will either be Zydeco at school the next day, or at home with Magenta (his substitute mom) that night. I haven't decided yet -we'll see where the muse takes me. I kind of like this chapter standing on its own, but it is short. I don't know that the chapters have to be of completely uniform length, to be honest. Lincoln Child & Douglas Preston appear to write their chapters until they're done, no matter how long or short, and I think I agree with that idea.

So, let's talk about what I like in this chapter. We discover that Zydeco is, to quote his best friend and erstwhile gnome, Blaine- "fierce and strong". A little demonstration, maestro...

"I've got your badge and warrant right here, buddy-roo." He yanked Blaine right up close to his face, holding him a solid foot off the floor. "Name's Hunter, right? Hunter. And you and your ear-ringed friend better not-"

Before he could finish his priceless sentence, I leapt onto the table and separated him from Blaine, who landed ass first on the last donut.

In one swift move I hooked Hunter under the shoulder and flung him across the room, where he collided with a neatly stacked set of folding chairs, causing them to become messily scattered instead.

A hand touched my shoulder and I spun around, beyond ready to fling the next guy through the window. It was just Blaine, though, brushing yellow custard and powdered sugar from his pants.

"I don't think he likes your earring, mate. Probably frowns on such expressions of individuality." A blob of lemon filling plopped to the floor. "Owe you one. Must be nice to be strong as a lion. Oh, that's right. You're half a one." He held his hand up. "Fierce and strong, mate."

Ah, the last donut. We hardly knew ye. The other thing I like is that we find out a bit about what Octavio can do, which leads me to my favorite dialog in the chapter.

I turned and cocked my head at the prone bodies of the three policemen. "Oh, dude. Looks like Octavio's gone all mythological on their asses."

Blaine stood beside me. "Indeed he has."

What am I worked up about? Well, clearly the length has me concerned, but I'll deal with it. Also, I've left Octavio with a bit of a mess to clean up, and I have to make sure that what he does "off screen/page" winds up being plausible. Oh well, that's a problem for another day.

To see what I think about chapter one, you can go back to the previous entry if you like.

You can slide on over here to read about chapter two.


Birth of a Novel - Chapter 1

This is the second entry in my Birth of a Novel series of posts, where I talk about the development of my new YA urban fantasy.

I've added another 750 words and written chapter one to its conclusion. It ends with an action-oriented cliffhanger and a bit of humor. The reader gets some hints about Zydeco's past, and get to see his reaction to an embarrassing situation. I'm loving his sidekick, Blaine - he's the comic relief of course - a former gnome - he's quite short and with dark leathery skin. He's got himself an English accent, and no I didn't overdue it for those concerned over such things.

I'm going to move on to chapter two, but here are my concerns over chapter one. Did I develop Zydeco enough or did I spend too much time making Blaine hilarious and Octavio colorful? Octavio, by the way, is a former cockatrice and the fussy leader of the "Mythical Creatures Support Group".

I can't rely purely on first-person POV keeping me from the initial trap I fell into with Elliot Hanson in The Children of Midian. At first, he was just too intense and rash, and not really interesting enough to sustain a novel. Zydeco has a way more interesting background. Hmm, maybe I should go back to my character notes on Zydeco, and spend some more time on him - flesh him out even more. I need to make darn sure I'm in his head.

I'm also not sure if I've done enough with the setting. Time will tell.

You can scootch over here to read about chapter two.